Re-Grading Every NY Knicks Offseason Acquisition
We're nearing the point of the season where conclusions can start to be drawn about the New York Knicks. Based off what they've shown thus far, this past offseason was a complete failure.
After winning 54 games in 2012-13, management decided to scrap everything and feature a new-look rotation. Out was the three-point, floor-stretching assault that led New York to having the third-best offense in the league, and in came a clunky, expensive mess that hasn't shown any signs of cohesion, save for a two-game stretch earlier this month.
As the summer concluded and the season neared, the Knicks seemed primed to make another playoff run as a top-five Eastern Conference team. Heck, their owner expected nothing less than a championship.
At 5-15, the Knicks have their work cut out for them to even make the playoffs.
Tyson Chandler's injury after just four games certainly did the team no favors, but was this team doomed from the start anyway?
We'll take a look back at this summer's Knicks moves, and try to pinpoint where everything went wrong.
Trading Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, 1st-Rounder, 2 2nd-Roudners for A. Bargnani
Acquisition Grade: C-
Swapping Steve Novak and Marcus Camby for Andrea Bargnani didn't seem like it'd be such a terrible personnel switch. When you consider the draft choices New York foolishly donated to the Toronto Raptors, you have an entirely different conversation. But for right now, let's focus on Bargnani's on-court impact.
What Bargnani represents is everything brainless about the Knicks. He's an overpaid, formerly overhyped draft bust, who the Knicks gave far too much to acquire. He's the antithesis of two key 2012-13 Knicks qualities: ball-movement and Carmelo Anthony logging most minutes at the power forward. Bargnani is a power forward that doesn't move the ball. He's created just 4.9 points per 48 minutes through assists, according to NBA.com, which ranks 161st of 198 players that have averaged at least 20 minutes per game over at least 12 games.
There are times where Bargnani looks proficient on offense. His jumper is occasionally wet and he'll get past a defender with a smooth duck to the rim every so often. But there's a reason he's been a net-negative player over his eight-year career. The guy is a flat-out liability on defense nearly every possession he's out there.
Not necessarily his one-on-one defense, though. He's actually held his own when stationed against bigs like Dwight Howard and Roy Hibbert. But Bargs and team defense—especially sophisticated systems like Mike Woodson's—have not and will never mix.
As you'd imagine, very few Knicks (just Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin) have positive net-ratings to this point. Bargnani's, though, is only better than Beno Udrih's and Amar'e Stoudemire's—note that Bargnani has played nearly 200 minutes more than those two combined. The Knicks' defense is roughly nine points per 100 possessions better with him off the floor.
In those "Bargnani-off" minutes, the Knicks are a net-positive. This is the only such example throughout the roster (via NBA.com).
It's tough to fault Bargnani (first) for failing at the center position, because the Knicks are running him there out of necessity, and (second) for most of his flaws mentioned above. This is simply the player he is, which makes the trade that much more of a failure. New York's hopes were riding on a seven-year vet severely morphing his skill set. Needless to say, it hasn't panned out.
Drafting Tim Hardaway Jr.
Draft Grade: B+
The Knicks made a curious draft decision in adding another 2-guard to an already crowded backcourt, but you could make the argument that Tim Hardaway Jr. has been the most consistent New York guard this season.
Over 19 games, Hardaway has shot over 46 percent from the field, 42 percent from three-point range and 87.5 from the stripe. He's put up eight points per game while averaging under 17 minutes and, although wild at times, has displayed the aggression and fire that's encouraging from a scoring guard.
Early in his rookie campaign, the 21-year-old has done a good job at staying out of the inefficient midrange, with just 25 of his 120 field goal attempts coming from there. He's also done a solid job at finishing when driving to the rim, connecting on 63 percent of his shots within five feet (via NBA.com).
Meanwhile, J.R. Smith has shot a putrid 35 percent this year and 34 from downtown. No matter to Mike Woodson though, who has run Smith out for 31 minutes a game since he was reinstated from suspension five contests in.
With his name in constant trade rumors all season long, Iman Shumpert's play has sputtered after a breakout postseason last spring. He's shooting at an even 40 percent and just 33 percent from three-point range, down from his stellar 40 percent mark he posted last season.
With the struggles of other Knicks point guards, the onus has occasionally fell on Hardaway to take on a scoring load. Though he has rarely disappointed, Woodson is, expectedly, short on patience in regards to the rookie, as he often is with players who aren't in or past their prime.
When he's been called upon, however, he's often thrived. Hardaway's defense will definitely need to improve, but the Michigan product's skill set early on is encouraging.
Signing Metta World Peace
Acquisition Grade: C+
Adding on Metta World Peace for just a sliver of the mid-level exception, at the time, seemed like a no-brainer. The Knicks were in desperate need of a three-and-D wing, and World Peace's New York roots really made it seem like he should've been a Knicks all along.
Even through the season's opening stretch, while there wasn't much going right for the Knicks, the former Ron Artest was a lone bright stop on the futile Knicks. Over his first seven games of the year, MWP put up 10 points, three boards, 1.6 steals and an assist per contest in 25 minutes. He was shooting a respectable 46 percent from the field and 35 percent from three. Even more noticeable than any stat: It looked like Metta gave a damn.
Since that opening hot streak, though, he's brought nothing to the table. He's fallen out of Mike Woodson's nine-man rotation in games where Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire are both active. In just 12 minutes per game since Nov. 14, he's shot 30 percent from the field, 30 percent from the arc, and put up just four points on average. The Knicks' offensive efficiency with World Peace on the floor has dipped from 102 over those first seven games to a pathetic 79 over his most recent 10 contests (via Basketball-Reference).
At 34, World Peace is one of the purported leaders on the floor, yet he's already taken his fair share of foolish and poorly thought out attempts this year. The Knicks brought Ron on to add defense, a lead influence and three-point shooting off the bench. Lately, he hasn't been able to supply any of that, and its played a major role in the Knicks' humiliating season.
Signing Beno Udrih
Acquisition Grade: B
Call me naïve, but I'm still convinced Beno Udrih can be a worthwhile signing for the Knicks.
Much of New York's offensive success last season was predicated on lethal two-point-guard lineups, advocating ball movement. The 31-year-old Udrih is essentially sliding in as Jason Kidd's replacement, and although Kidd's know-how and vocal presence goes unmatched, Udrih is both younger and more capable with the ball in his hands.
During Raymond Felton's most recent time down with injury, Udrih stepped in and struggled—which was predictable because he's not a starting-caliber point guard.
The job Udrih signed on for—to be a part of the dual-point rotation while splitting time both on and off the ball—is how the Slovenian vet would thrive. He even talked about the potential last August with KnicksNow's Jonah Ballow.
“I like that,” he said. "You have two ball handlers, both can guard shooting guard positions, and on offense they can both run the point guard, so that’s great. I think it’s a good balance on the court like that. I like it and hopefully it’s going to work for us this year as much as it did last year for them.”
Hopefully it will, if Mike Woodson ever finds his way back to that strategy.
After opening night, Felton and Pablo Prigioni have played simultaneously in just five games for a total of 44 minutes. Udrih and Prigioni have played together in just two games for a whopping seven minutes combined. Felton and Udrih? One game, three minutes paired with each other.
Put simply, Woodson has scrapped the game plan that was the precise reasoning for signing Udrih in the first place. Should the coach—or a potential replacement—put his thinking cap back on, he'd probably be inclined to gravitate towards what made the Knicks a vaunted opponent last season. Then, and only then, would Udrih become an asset—and make no mistake, he would.
Re-Signing Own Free Agents
J.R. Smith: D
J.R. Smith has been very bad ever since he elbowed Jason Terry in the face during last season's playoffs. There may or may not be a relation between the event and the putrid performance, but since that date, Smith hasn't even come close to resembling last year's Sixth Man of the Year.
He made just 29 percent of his attempts last postseason following a one-game suspension for the elbow, averaging 13.5 points on 14.6 shots.
He has shot 35 percent this year from the field and 34 from beyond the arc. Mike Woodson's faith in Smith has never wavered, though—even though it probably should have by now. He's logged 31 minutes of court time on average thus far.
We've seen it time and time again in just 15 games. Smith firing passes at teammates' shoelaces. Smith dribbling the ball off his own shoelaces. Smith telegraphing lobs square into the arms of defenders. And with the ensuing dead ball, Woodson is quick to make a substitution—though usually swapping out one of Pablo Prigioni, Tim Hardaway or Iman Shumpert, leaving Smith on despite his own ineffectiveness.
J.R. has done nothing to warrant any multi-year deal, let alone the potential four-year, $24 million pact he signed last summer. If Woodson is shown the door in the coming weeks, it's unlikely that his successor will show as much patience with Smith.
Pablo Prigioni: A
Finally! Management can find solace in one free-agent signing this past offseason. Thirty-six-year-old Pablo Prigioni has brought about as much as one could ask at the point in his second NBA season. It's not his fault he's only been on the court for 15.5 minutes per game, if you discount his opening-night, 37-minute outlier.
It's always fairly obvious that the Knicks' offense runs much more fluidly with Prigioni at the controls. Look no further than New York's defeat to the Boston Celtics at MSG on Sunday. Prigioni played 17 minutes, and finished with an even plus-minus ratio. In a game the Knicks lost by 41.
New York shot 64 percent with him on the floor (including 80 percent from three), and 22 percent (including 18 percent from three) in 31 minutes with him off.
On defense, Prigioni is active but without the frame or stamina to keep up with shiftier points. Regardless, along with Tim Hardaway, Prigioni has probably been one of the Knicks' most consistent backcourt players through 20 games.
Kenyon Martin: B
The Knicks won't be able to rely on Kenyon Martin a whole lot these days, but for the minimum, the team's certainly getting its money's worth.
Martin is the lone defensive presence with Tyson Chandler out after breaking his leg last month. He's made the occasional start, averaged 18 minutes, and put up seven points, eight boards and 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes.
His shooting marks have dropped from 60 percent last season to roughly 51 percent in 2013-14, which can be attributed to the overall choppiness of the offense as compared to last season. Not much Martin can do to help out there.
He's under a medical-limitation umbrella similar to Amar'e Stoudemire, which is a little disheartening, but it could be just what the doctor ordered. Though it's still early, Martin hasn't showed any major signs of wear, even despite missing most of training camp with ankle issues.
Signing Cole Aldrich, Toure' Murry and Chris Smith out of Camp
Toure' Murry: B
Murry's skill set is very intriguing in the backcourt, and he's put some of his abilities on display during far-too-frequent garbage times this season. He's shot 8-of-17 this year while grabbing four boards and dishing three assists.
It seems as if Murry wants to show off his skills as badly as Knicks fans want to see them. His usage rate of 33 leads the team, aided by his 17 field goal attempts in just 32 minutes.
With Raymond Felton possibly missing time with a hip/hamstring issue, Murry should be a candidate to absorb some guard minutes—but that doesn't mean he will be. If Mike Woodson hasn't turned to the end of his bench yet, chances are he'll ignore them until it's too late.
Cole Aldrich: C
Between Cole Aldrich, Ike Diogu and Josh Powell—the three big men competing for a spot in training camp—it seemed like Aldrich did the least to deserve a spot. He hasn't gotten much of a chance to prove himself this season, but when he's been out there, nothing exactly screams—or speaks softly, or whispers, or resembles anything even close to—rotation material.
Diogu or Powell may have been better choices, and the decision proved costly when Tyson Chandler, right on cue, went down with a leg injury in game No. 4.
Chris Smith: Nah.
J.R.'s little bro is ballin' out in Erie with the Bayhawks on a fully guaranteed NBA salary. Word on the street is he's playing some cool defense and taking three to the dome. Okay!
Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.
That last D-League update courtesy of Posting & Toasting
Stats gathered from NBA.com/Stats and Basketball-Reference, and are accurate as of games entering Dec. 11, 2013.
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